Google’s Helpful Content Update: 4 Things to Know

If you want to reach a broad online audience, your website has to align with Google’s algorithm. It might sound simple, but aligning your content with search engine preferences is much easier said than done. Not only are new features rolling out constantly, but what’s “optimal” today might hold you back next week.

Google recently rolled out an update to promote what it’s calling “helpful content.” The shift is due to the fact that creators have adapted to SEO best practices like keywords, headlines, and backlinking, making content less interesting, informative, and original as a result. This article will cover the key points regarding the update, and can help you create Google-friendly content moving forward. 

1. It’s Putting People First

SEO professionals are great at building content that’s search-engine friendly. But unfortunately, they can fall into the trap of writing for an algorithm instead of a human being. Still, when you consider the standard measurables like clicks, audience reach, and impressions – all of which can be attributed to a favorable search ranking – it’s hard to criticize their approach. 

The gold standard in SEO is content that audiences find engaging while also checking the boxes that will help the article, web page, etc., rank higher on search engines. After much deliberation, Google has decided to emphasize the importance of quality [read: helpful] information and slightly reduce its algorithm’s focus on the typical SEO factors. 

In the minds of many copywriters, this update is long overdue. The engineers behind the world’s largest search engine have decided that writers shouldn’t be penalized for their lack of keyword-rich headlines when other websites provide empty information with the goal of improving a website’s position in the search engine hierarchy. 

2. Gaming the System Could Cost You

The whole concept behind SEO is that the search engine which can most effectively lead users to the content they want should be rewarded. For example, if search engine A always helps you find information-rich websites that you deem engaging and relevant, you’ll use it regularly. On the other hand, if search engine B leads you to articles that look relevant on the surface but don’t really answer your questions, you won’t employ its services any time soon. 

Google recognized that some writers were focusing too much on getting eyeballs and not enough on providing value to readers. Interestingly, a Twitter poll confirmed what many industry professionals already knew: many writers prioritize SEO considerations over quality. 

In response to a Twitter poll asking, “Are you concerned about Google’s announced Helpful Content Update outcome in your sites?” more than 50% of responders acknowledged they were either “Unsure” or “Yes/Need to improve.” The results of this poll are an outright admission by a significant percentage of content creators that they might have leaned a little too heavily into the “SEO-ness” of their writing while potentially neglecting the “helpful” factor. 

3. Some Sites Will Be Impacted More Than Others

Because the update hasn’t been rolled out in its entirety, it’s still too early to say precisely how it will impact the websites’ searchability. Google has been relatively tight-lipped about the matter. The lack of information is likely because at this time, they aren’t really sure where the chips will fall.

The tech giant has stated that the updates will not target any particular niche. Still, they did highlight a few industries that could be most vulnerable to some search ranking volatility. These include online education, arts and entertainment, shopping, and tech-related information.

Google didn’t just decide to pick on these industries arbitrarily. Instead, they chose to target these sectors because they tend to create online content designed to satisfy search engines rather than provide value to real people. Traditionally, most websites that rely on driving immediate action (i.e., shopping and purchasing tickets for entertainment events) have taken this approach.

The major difference between this particular update and previous SEO updates is that Google’s helpful content update impacts sitewide search ranking. In the past, SEO was primarily focused on a single page ranking high or low in search results. Google’s philosophy is that low-quality page content probably indicates low-quality site content. But, of course, the inverse is also true. If you produce content that’s highly relevant and original, you’ll establish trust with Google’s search algorithm that will be applied to your site as a whole.

4. Updates Should Benefit Both Consumers and Creators

Building trust with an audience starts with creating a good user experience (UX) for website visitors. While some consider design, CTAs, imagery, etc., to be the most important components of UX, the focus should be on the value of the information you’re providing.

Content creators regularly fall into the trap of settling on an article topic, researching it on another site, and then regurgitating the information with a few minor tweaks to avoid being considered outright plagiarism. Anyone who’s been tasked with providing a large volume of content knows that sometimes the aforementioned formula is the “standard” way to write an article – especially when the goal is SEO.

Google’s helpful update is now putting an emphasis on criteria that should have been rewarded all along. Quality over quantity is just the tip of the iceberg. Originality, which rewards creators who are “first” to create a specific piece of content while penalizing those who essentially copy their article on another website, is now something to strive for,

When writers recognize that it’s no longer sufficient to stuff a piece full of keywords and relevant headlines while neglecting to provide something of value to the reader, we’ll have a better internet. Google might have a long list of controversial SEO updates in the past, but this one is a step in the right direction.

Wrapping Up

Content creation has always been, and will likely always be, a constant in any effective digital marketing strategy. Google’s latest update ensures that blog posts and website copy are designed to provide value to audiences instead of only focusing on getting clicks or increasing reach.

If your business could benefit from content creation strategy that takes SEO into account while also making your website a resource for your target audience, get in touch today for a free consultation.